Rising Spirits

The spirits industry is certainly in flux, as consumers move away from vodka toward whiskies and embrace flavored spirits in new categories. The cinnamon whisky, moonshine and premium Bourbon trends continue to mature, increasing competition within the category as brands fight for staying power. As that battle plays out, distilled spirits are also competing for market share with beer and wine as consumers cross categories more frequently.

“Last year was a transitional one for beverage alcohol, as changing consumer trends forced the industry to adapt,” says Adam Rogers, Manager of Information Services at The Beverage Information & Insights Group. “Consumers are no longer tied to one category, as they now approach their consumption type by occasion. Beer, wine and spirits are interchangeable to many consumers, based on how they believe one or the other will enhance their drinking occasion.”

Spirit brands are also benefiting from consumers trading up to premium and super-premium brands, turning the corner on the downward trend that began during the recent recession.

“What stands out to me most in the beverage alcohol industry right now is the renaissance going on with regard to product quality,” Rogers says. “Although consumers are often drinking less, they’re also drinking better, which bodes well from a revenue perspective.”

Since the defining trends in spirits are well established, there weren’t many unexpected winners on this year’s Growth Brands list, with one notable exception: BuzzBallz.

“Rising Star BuzzBallz isn’t playing into the premium trend, but rather a convenience trend,” Rogers says. “Other newcomers, like Ménage à Trois Vodka, are prime examples of targeting consumers through occasions. In the case of Trinchero Family Estate’s vodka extension of its popular Ménage à Trois Wine (an Established Growth Brand itself), the company is seeing brand loyalty as consumers cross from wine to spirits.”

Looking ahead to 2015, Rogers expects an even better year for the wine and spirit categories, with more winning Growth Brands.

“Current economic factors like lower gas prices are expected to bring people back to the on-premise,” he says. “Also, many suppliers have recently invested in the off-premise, which was quicker to return to pre-recessionary levels. So both the on- and off-premise are primed for increased consumer demand.”

American Whiskey Takes the Lead on Innovation

It’s no surprise that so many American Whiskeys (especially Bourbons) won Growth Brand Awards this year – consumers have driven a whiskey revival in the U.S., leading to production, aging and flavor innovation from whiskey suppliers.

“As the world’s number one Bourbon, we’re honored to be named a Growth Brand and continue to deliver strong growth across our portfolio through our flavored offerings, premium expressions and Jim Beam White Label, which continues to gain momentum,” says Vanessa Jenkins, Senior Director of U.S. Bourbon for Beam Suntory.

Last year Beam unveiled its “Make History” campaign, the first global marketing campaign in the company’s 220-year history, and also began a partnership with Mila Kunis. The company also introduced a variety of new products to the Jim Beam line, including Single Barrel, Signature Craft, Harvest Bourbon Collection and Kentucky Fire.

In the coming year, the brand will feature another Signature Craft expression and the final four batches of the Harvest Bourbon Collection. As a response to feedback from mixologists, the brand also recently introduced Jim Beam Bonded and Jim Beam Rye.

Evan Williams has also seen recent success with line extensions. The brand’s Flavor Reserves include honey, cinnamon, cherry and a soon-to-be-released peach (later this year, they will be renamed simply Evan Williams Honey, Evan Williams Fire and Evan Williams Cherry). The flavors have their own advertising and activation efforts, but Heaven Hill looks to promote them together, especially since the flavors bring in younger consumers and women.

“We have an integrated marketing program for the entire brand, including our ongoing sponsorship of Bass Fishing and Championship Bull Riding, a spring music program and fall tailgating program,” says Kate Latts, Director of Marketing. “The brand is activating in all possible ways.”

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience at the brand’s visitor center in Louisville, which Latts says has been called “The Disney Experience of Bourbon Tours,” also serves as a trailhead for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. “It’s an amazing facility and attracts more and more consumers to the brand,” she says.

Woodford Reserve’s recent line extensions include Double Oaked and Reserve Rye, which was just introduced in select markets. In the coming months, Brand Director Jason Kempf says Woodford will release its newest Master’s Collection offering and a fourth permanent line extension.

“We’ll also be continuing many of our promotional programs,” Kempf says. “Last year was our first television advertising campaign, which helped generate a lot of brand awareness. Our Manhattan Experience bartender competition helped solidify our trade and bartenders relationships around the country as well.”

Diageo broke ground during 2014 on the future home of the Bulleit Distilling Company and opened The Bulleit Experience at Stitzel-Weller, while also launching the Bulleit Woody Tailgate Tour during the fall.

“We made a tangible effort to bring the liquid to the lips of thousands of consumers in 2014,” says Yvonne Briese, Diageo’s VP of Marketing for North American Whiskey. “We continue to empower our Masters of Whiskey team to be our eyes, ears and palates in a number of major markets. They’ve been a valuable asset in growing the brand on-premise and turning bartenders into true brand advocates.”

The focus in 2015 for the brand will be on sharing founder Tom Bulleit’s story of entrepreneurship, quitting a law career in 1987 to revive his family’s Bourbon recipe.

Maker’s Mark is expanding its digital presence by utilizing platforms that engage with its brand’s fans in real time, including Reddit, Celtra and customized social programs. It recently engaged consumers and bartenders for feedback during a limited launch of Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, which will enter national distribution during 2015.

“We want to push boundaries with new technologies and digital platforms that will reach consumers with relevant brand experiences,” says Senior Director of U.S. Maker’s Mark, Gigi Dadan. “We’ll help them create personal discoveries at the local level by expanding initiatives with digital partnerships.”

Maker’s Mark also celebrated its strong female influence last year, as Marge Samuels (wife of founder Bill Samuels, Sr.) was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame – the first woman to join that group who was directly connected to a distillery.

McCormick Distilling’s Triple Crown has used social media to build its brand following. The brand leveraged its horse racing tie-in when California Chrome was competing for the Triple Crown in June. “We contributed to online conversations, celebrated with the horse racing community and engaged with sportscasters and race fans,” says Vice president of marketing Vic Morrison. “We asked, ‘America is ready for a Triple Crown, are you?’”

While there may not be another Triple Crown contender in 2015, the brand is ready to continue its social media engagement to drive awareness and connect with consumers again this year.

Last year the number-one selling Super-Premium Bourbon took things up a notch, as Knob Creek launched its first television ad, Bookerisms, which showcased the product’s Bourbon heritage. The campaign will continue in 2015, as will the brand’s commitment to celebrating the spirit of founder Booker Noe.

The brand also partnered with celebrity chef Michael Symon, bringing ten fans to the distillery in Kentucky for a campout and grilling demonstration as part of a summer sweepstakes. “We plan to bring consumers even bigger, better and more flavorful content and experiences in 2015, as we continue our partnership with Chef Symon,” says Beam Suntory’s Jenkins. “We’ll continue to demonstrate Knob Creek’s big, full flavor on the grill and in the glass.”

Fast Track - Spirits

Source: The Beverage Information & Insights Group. For more data, visit www.albevresearch.com.

Expanding Beyond Mexican Heritage

Like their Bourbon counterparts, tequila brands won an impressive number of Growth Brand Awards this year – especially the higher-end spirits. What’s even more striking is that these brands are branching far out from traditional tequila consumers and consumption patterns, embracing a more sophisticated view of agave and tequila’s mixability.

Diageo’s Don Julio tequila, founded more than 70 years ago, spent 2014 traveling across the U.S. in partnership with the Airstream Speakeasy, a mobile cocktail bar designed and built by three bartenders. The Airstream’s on-tap cocktail system allowed the brand to serve craft cocktails to more than 30,000 consumers across the country.

“This collaboration enabled the brand to reinvent the way we approach large-scale sampling, while also reaching influencers, engaging with press and delighting spirits enthusiasts with an engaging activation,” according to the brand.

For 2015, Don Julio will roll out a fleet of pick-up trucks resembling those that founder Don Julio Gonzalez used to travel to and from his agave fields. The 1940’s era restored trucks will also function as a mobile cocktail bar and drive growth and interest for the brand across the country.

Epsolon Tequila also emphasized craft cocktails during the last year, launching the Epsolon COCKtail Fights to challenge courageous and daring bartenders. The brand visited 11 cities, allowing fans to wager on their favorite mixologist.

“We plan to build on that success in the next year,” says Kathleen Schuart, Senior Marketing Director of White Spirits at Campari America. “We want to amp up the energy with a second tour this year. We have high expectations that the competitors can out-create the courageous geniuses behind the bartops last year.”

Patron utilized social media in 2014 to connect with the brand’s consumers, beginning the year with almost no social media presence and ending the year as the top spirit brand on Twitter and among a handful of the top brands on Facebook.

“Our brand has a lot of swagger and it’s become ubiquitous, but what’s often lost in that is that we’re a small-batch, handcrafted, artisanal tequila,” says Lee Applbaum, Patron’s CMO. “We just produce a lot of it in very small batches. In the past year, better telling that story through traditional, digital and social media, as well as event and experiential activations, has been very important for the brand.

Since one year is not long enough to tell that artisanal story, Patron plans to continue that focus on telling its story through unique promotions and events, including what Applbaum calls a “game-changer” that will be unveiled in the spring.

Omeca Altos Tequila lives by the credo, “tasting is believing.” The brand utilizes three-wheeled taco bikes in restaurants and bars offering tacos to accompany samples of the tequila. In 2014 it also invited consumers to interactive experiences in liquor and grocery stores, where they could try to match wits with the brand’s Master Distiller, Jesus Hernandez.

In the coming year, Omeca Altos will invite even more bartenders to events that celebrate them and the brand’s “invented by bartenders” origin, as well as investing in new campaigns. “Everyone deserves great tequila at an affordable price,” the brand says. “We have confidence that consumers will deliver Altos because we deliver.”

Source: The Beverage Information & Insights Group. For more data, visit www.albevresearch.com.

Source: The Beverage Information & Insights Group. For more data, visit www.albevresearch.com.

Down, but not Out

The vodka category isn’t what it once was (especially flavored vodka), but there are some standouts who rose above their peers and sustained growth in 2014.

Belvedere’s main catalyst for growth last year was its “Know the Difference” campaign, which educated consumers about how rye, water and character make Belvedere different. “It was very successful in promoting knowledgeable choice,” says Virginia Lawson, Belvedere’s Brand Director. “In addition, the launch of Mango Passion continued the brand’s path of innovation and helped increase momentum.”

Belvedere also partnered with Sony Entertainment and EON’s 24th installment of the James Bond franchise, Spectre, which the brand feels will be a growth driver in 2015. The marketing program around the film will include a global advertising campaign and activation rights around the release.

For Roust’s (formerly Russian Standard) Green Mark Vodka, being named a Growth Brand winner means the company is achieving its goal of more and more consumers enjoying its spirit. “That’s our number one priority,” says Tom Lewis, Senior Brand Manager at Roust USA. “We’re proud to have built a core following of the brand since launch and expect to grow gradually through targeted promotions to drive trial and word-of-mouth.”

Devotion Vodka, the gluten-free and sugar-free spirit, doesn’t have the marketing budget of a global brand, so its philosophy “since day one has been to roll up our sleeves and work harder than everyone else,” says CEO Drew Adelman. “We remain committed to focusing our marketing on the grassroots level, as it’s been a competitive advantage for us.”

Devotion plans to debut two new flavors in the spring, as well as create more promotional signage, special in-store events and social media campaigns to create additional awareness.

Global Whiskies Show Growth

Like their American counterparts, imported whiskies showed impressive growth in 2014, stemming from innovative product extensions, consumer engagement and marketing initiatives.

Tullamore Dew opened a $50 million, state-of-the-art distillery in 2014, marking the return of whiskey production to the Irish town of Tullamore 60 years after the original distillery closed. “This new distillery puts us firmly in control of our destiny, as we can now match production to demand,” the brand says.

Additionally, the brand had a milestone year in television presence as it premiered its first-ever national commercial during the Colbert Report finale (and reaching an audience of 30 million). In 2015, Tullamore Dew will debut the Daniel E. Williams Snug, an immersive brand experience that mimics the classic Irish snug commonly found in pubs, consisting of a small, cozy room for loyal patrons to enjoy their drams in private.

Another Irish whiskey, 2 Gingers, expanded from limited distribution in 2014 and is now available nationwide. Founder Kieran Folliard and the team from Beam Suntory coordinated a Road Show in a customized Airstream, allowing bartenders, distributors and consumers to discover the Big Ginger, the brand’s trademarked cocktail.

“The road show presented an exceptional opportunity for us to spread the word and officially introduce 2 Gingers from coast to coast,” says Claire Richards, Director of World Whiskey and Cognac for Beam Suntory. “We continued the momentum with the implementation of a national sampling program in both the on- and off-premise, driving trial and growth for the brand.”

In the Scotch category, Johnnie Walker Black Label made the “Keep Walking” campaign a focus, after it was re-launched the previous year. The brand utilized a multimedia campaign, as well as limited edition gift boxes, to toast “Keep Walking” occasions like fatherhood, a new job or retirement.

The brand also introduced two new innovations – Johnnie Walker Platinum Label and Double Black – which have provided more Scotch occasions for consumers.

Buchanan’s, a Diageo brand like Johnnie Walker, launched a new campaign in 2014, called “A Lo Grande,” and simultaneously expanded the brand distribution beyond California and Texas to reach new consumers. Buchanan’s also became the official spirits sponsor of the Latin Grammys and continued a partnership with the Latin Billboards, two of Latin music’s biggest nights.

Up north, Revel Stroke has engaged consumers through social media, as well as through on-premise promotions like “Seek the Stroke,” which encouraged consumers to seek out Revel Stroke locally. “We’re excited to say that our growth is being driven not only by our loyal fan base, but also by our new Stroke customers,” says Marla Burke, Phillips Distilling Director of Marketing.

The company plans to continue building the brand across the entire portfolio (which includes pecan, spiced and cinnamon flavors, as well as the straight Canadian Whisky). But based on the success of pecan, “we’ll be increasing our marketing efforts on-premise with tastings and promotional activities to induce trial and purchase,” Burke adds.

Source: The Beverage Information & Insights Group. For more data, visit www.albevresearch.com.

Source: The Beverage Information & Insights Group. For more data, visit www.albevresearch.com.

An Old Rum and a New Rum

Two Heaven Hill rums, Admiral Nelson and Blackheart Spiced Rum, won Growth Brand Awards this year.

Admiral Nelson was given a premium, updated look in 2014 following the company’s acquisition of the brand in 2011, according to Director of Marketing Kate Latts. “I think you saw the effects of that new look in 2014, coupled with premium POS and merchandising items, including a wooden core to be used outside in the summer months, supporting consumption for outdoor occasions,” she says.

In the coming year, the brand will add high-value display items like a wooden bar cart for on-premise and launch Admiral Nelson Black patch, a 94-proof black rum.

Blackheart Spiced Rum, on the other hand, saw its first year of national advertising in 2014 through a close partnership with Playboy Magazine. “We created a custom Blackheart-branded mini-magazine that went into every copy of Playboy one issue, which was really engaging,” Latts says. “It capitalized on the bolder, edgier segment of the spiced rum category and surpassed all of our goals.

In 2015, Blackheart will begin sponsoring Mixed Martial Arts fighting as the official rum of the series, which involves signage, arena branding, television advertising on Spike, and a continuation of the print program with Playboy.

A Quarter-Millennium of Growth

As Hennessy celebrates its 250th year, it continues with the mantra “Never stop. Never settle.” The continuation of that campaign, along with a collaboration with Nas, helped drive awareness around the brand in 2014.

“We also recently held the 11th annual V.S.O.P Privilege Awards and honored Shark Tank investor and FUBU founder Daymond John for his commitment to mentorship and fostering entrepreneurship within his community,” says Brand Manager Jacqueline Long.

Throughout 2015, the brand will pay homage to Hennessy’s 250-year legacy and heritage, releasing a limited edition Cognac and showcasing the Hennessy 250 Tour at Lincoln Center in New York.

Passion and Enthusiasm for Cucumber and Rose

The sustained growth of Hendrick’s Gin can be attributed to the passion of the William Grant & Son’s Team, as well as enthusiasm of mixologists who have embraced the gin with its unique taste, character and ability to craft cocktails, according to the brand. In 2014 Hendrick’s launched a traveling show, the Emporium of the Unusual, which visited six cities and welcomed more than 16,000 people into the Hendrick’s brand world. The company plans to build upon that program in 2015, but “bring it to a new peculiar level this year.”

Comeback - Spirits

Source: The Beverage Information & Insights Group. For more data, visit www.albevresearch.com.

 

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Beam Suntory, Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.12m (+11.8%)

What makes Devil’s Cut successful, besides the outstanding growth in the Bourbon category? “Devil’s Cut appeals to whiskey explorers looking to discover Bourbons that have unique production processes or interesting back stories,” says Vanessa Jenkins, Sr. Director of U.S. Bourbon at Beam Suntory. “Devil’s cut is rooted in authenticity and distilling tradition, and the bold, intense flavor profile stands up exceptionally well in classic whiskey cocktails.”

The brand uses a proprietary process that extracts the liquid trapped inside the charred oak wood of a Bourbon barrel it’s been aged in – something not used by any other whiskey on the market. In addition to its unique positioning, Devil’s Cut is supported by marketing, digital and retail support, including the “Make History” television spot that ran throughout 2014.

“We look forward to continuing to grow Devil’s Cut as the product gains momentum on- and off-premise,” Jenkins says. “As the category leader in innovation, we certainly have a lot of exciting new offerings in the pipeline.”

 

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Brown-Forman Beverages, Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.67m (+10.0%)

“Jack Honey has been able to expand its consumer base by introducing new consumer groups to the world of Jack Daniel’s, most notably multicultural consumers and females,” says Casey Nelson, Senior Brand Manager for Jack Daniel’s flavor portfolio. “The brand has made a conscientious effort to reach out to these consumers in unique and relevant ways.”

In 2015 the brand will introduce a new look, which will reflect the attitude and personality of the brand. Tenneseee Honey also announced a partnership with Atlantic Records R&B artist K. Michelle, a Tennessee native and life-long fan of Jack Daniel’s, in an effort to expand multicultural awareness of the brand.

After a successful test launch of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, the new flavor in the portfolio will be launching nationally in March.

 

Svedka, Constellation Brands, Established Growth, 2014 Cases: 4.08m (+3.3%)

Q&A with Diana Pawlik, Vice President Marketing, Spirits and Global Imports for Constellation Brands

BD: What initiatives or promotions in 2014 contributed most to Svedka’s growth?

DP: Our strong marketing campaign that encompasses both digital and traditional advertising helped hone in on the consumer, while attracting new entrants to the category. Specifically in 2014, the roll out of our Strawberry Lemonade and Mango Pineapple flavors had some of the highest social media engagement within our category.

BD: What do you have planned for 2015 to continue the momentum and ensure you win another Growth Brand next year?

DP: Apart from our newest Grapefruit Jalapeno creation, we’ll introduce Svedka 100-proof in March. Imbibers are experimenting with unflavored vodkas, and there is an evolving air of connoisseurship as it relates to the 100-proof segment. Entering that segment allows us to diversify our portfolio, stay competitive and introduce our innovative vision of what 100-proof vodka should be.

 

Ciroc, Diageo, Established Growth, 2014 Cases: 2.09m (+8.9%)

“We speak a lot about a new America,” says Dia Simms, President of Combs Wine & Spirits. “Super-diverse, extraordinarily digitally connected, with a different level of ownership.” To that end, Ciroc continues to carve out its own unique space as a modern, ultra-premium choice for celebratory occasions.

In 2014 the brand launched Ciroc Pineapple and a new campaign, “Step Into the Circle,” in partnership with the NBA and New York Fashion Week. Ciroc plans to continue activation of that campaign in 2015, along with enhanced partnerships with the NBA and the Grammys.

The gluten-free vodka distilled from French grapes, “offers an affordable access point into the luxury lifestyle in which consumers aspire to participate,” according to the brand.

 

Piehole Whiskey, Diageo, Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.03m (–)

Piehole Whiskeys launched in November 2014, a mix of Canadian whisky and pie-flavored liqueur. Seizing on the holiday season, the brand utilized digital and social media programs to encourage influencers to create their own pie-flavored cocktails for Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings.

“At the time of the launch, we also executed hundreds of samplings in the on-premise to allow consumers to engage, experience and taste the brand during the peak of the holiday season,” says Yvonne Briese, VP of Marketing for Diageo North American Whiskey. “We also have a number of unique and noteworthy efforts that we believe will drive consumer passion for Piehole in 2015.”

Among those initiatives is a calendar featuring 14 bartenders from Boston, each posting for a 1950s-style portrait along Piehole cocktails they’ve created. The brand’s packaging features Americana imagery, which further connects the brand to nostalgic consumers.

Piehole is currently available in three flavors: apple pie, cherry pie and pecan pie. “Currently, we’re not planning to release any additional variants, but as the brand grows we’ll evaluate consumer desire to see if there’s a new slice of pie to offer,” Briese adds.

 

Roca Patron, The Patron Spirits Company, Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.04m (–)

Only six months after its launch, Roca Patron is already a rising star on this year’s list. One big reason is its positioning as a hand-crafted, artisanal tequila.

“Consumer interest in authentic production is a huge macro trends, not just in spirits, and Roca Patron is made in a style that honors the origins of tequila,” says Lee Applbaum, Patron’s CMO. “Consumer palates in tequila are also becoming more sophisticated, so a complex product like Roca answers their call.”

Mixologists have crafted incredibly creative, innovative cocktails that leverage spirits like Roca Patron, which add flavor to a drink. “They’re looking to capture the spirit and essence of the tequila itself,” Applbaum says. “It’s similar to what’s being done with gins and rums and whiskeys. It’s not about hiding the spirit in the cocktail anymore; it’s about letting it be the star.”

 

Fireball, Sazerac, Fast Track, 2014 Cases: 3.90m (+108.3%)

Q&A with Becky Henry, Marketing Director for Fireball

BD: What industry trends are most contributing to the growth in Fireball sales?

BH: Fireball was the first company to have great success with flavored whiskey, and we set the trend for the category. We’re happy being the ones setting industry trends but Fireball goes beyond a category; it’s one of a kind.

BD: What does it mean to you to be named a Growth Brand winner?

BH: We are both excited and humbled. We owe it all to our great Fireball nation of fans.

BD: What makes Fireball stand out from other flavored spirits on the market?

BH: It tastes like heaven, burns like Hell.

BD: Are there any plans for line extensions in the near future?

BH: Sorry, some things we have to keep secret!

 

Casamigos Tequila, Sidney Frank Importing, Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.04m (+123.5%)

Q&A with Lee Einsidler, CEO of Sidney Frank Importing Company

BD: What promotions, events, or other sales initiatives contributed to Casamigo’s growth in 2014?

Einsidler: The award-winning product and the people behind it speak for themselves.

BD: What are you planning for 2015 that will assure the brand’s continued growth and success?

Einsidler: As more people continue to learn about Casamigos Tequila, the biggest concern we have is ensuring we have enough production to keep up with demand.

 

Burnett’s Vodka, Heaven Hill Brands, Fast Track, 2014 Cases: 2.61m (+11.0%)

Burnett’s growth has been bolstered by the flavored category’s explosion over the past few years. Last year the brand launched two new flavors – strawberry banana and ruby red grapefruit – as well as a new marketing campaign emphasizing the fun of consumption.

“In the year ahead, we’ll be continuing the ‘More Fun with Burnett’s’ campaign and launching two new flavors,” says Kate Latts, Director of Marketing at Heaven Hill. “We’ll also continue our in-store merchandising program with a new display that looks like a blue Solo cup, which is a major way the brand is consumed at young, fun, house-party environments.”

As the flavored vodka market has softened in the past year, Burnett’s has seen a resurgence in sales of its 80 proof vodka and is shifting some promotions as a result. Despite the market conditions, Latts believes Burnett’s is well-positioned for continued success in flavors.

“We’ve been very prudent to launch flavors that fit with Burnett’s equity and have consumer relevance,” she says. “We’ve seen so many brands launch so many flavors and we feel the consumer eventually said, ‘enough already!’ We’ve tried not to follow the candy and confectionary flavor craze off the cliff.”

Burnett’s is analyzing its distribution partnerships to optimize which sizes and flavors should appear in each market, working on an account by account basis. “We’re really trying to paint he picture of our distribution and flavor mix with a finer paint brush to see which products are working best,” Latts adds.

 

RumChata, Agave Loco Brands, Fast Track, 2014 Cases: 0.54m (+17.4%)

Last year, RumChata entered the top ten list of liqueur brands in the U.S. The brand continued to improve distribution and advertised in 22 top markets in the fourth quarter, according to founder and Master Blender Tom Maas. “We spent at a level last year that would be in the top-five liquor brands,” he says.

In 2015, RumChata will continue to expand shelf presence and look for new points of distribution, as well as seek additional features in menus on-premise. All helped by a 75% increase in the brand’s advertising budget for the coming year.

 

Angel’s Envy, Louisville Distilling Co., Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.06m (+52.4%)

Q&A with Andrea Myers, Vice president and brand director for Angel’s Envy Bourbon

BD: What marketing or promotional programs in 2014 most contributed to growth for Angel’s Envy?

AM: We continued to invest in our Whiskey Guardians ambassador program this past year – they’re the folks who truly drive brand growth from the ground up. They’re the face of the brand in local markets and devoted loyalists. We also expanded into new markets and continued or limited releases, including Rye (finished in rum casks) and Cask Strength.

BD: What are you planning for 2015 to build on the growth from the past year?

AM: We’ve increased our sales goals for 2015 and our number of new market openings. We’ll continue to provide some of the best POS in the category, and we plan to execute more local advertising. We’re also going to continue with the highly successful Whiskey Guardian program.

 

Ménage à Trois Vodka, Trinchero Family Estates, Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.02m (–)

Ménage à Trois Vodka, like its sister wine brand of the same name, is targeting its core audience with both social and PR messaging. The brand is connecting with both vodka and wine consumers to share messaging across the portfolio.

The vodka brand sources its spring water in California, which is where the next level of marketing efforts will focus, especially in the second half of 2015.

When Trinchero Family Estates purchased the wine brand in 2004, it grew from a small red blend into a top-seller and Growth Brand winner; the company hopes to do the same with Ménage à Trois Vodka in the years ahead.

 

Larceny, Heaven Hill Brands, Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.03m (–)

Larceny Bourbon has a problem many brands would be happy to deal with – there’s not enough of it to go around. “We launched in ten lead markets a few years ago, and we would love to expand to more if we had enough product to supply them,” says Kate Latts, Heaven Hill’s Director of Marketing.

The story behind the brand is that John E. Fitzgerald was a tax collector who used to audit Bourbon warehouses, and the legend goes that he used to help himself to a little bit of the whiskey during his patrols. With the tagline “A taste made famous by an infamous act,” the brand appeals to whiskey drinkers seeking a story with their drink.

“In the year ahead we’re expanding to two new markets (Tennessee and Pennsylvania), and we look forward to fueling the growth of this brand with additional retail merchandising and our whiskey ambassador program,” Latts says.

 

Ole Smoky Moonshine, Ole Smoky Distillery, Rising Star, 2014 Cases: 0.33m (+46.7%)

“This year was a busy one for Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine,” says Michael Bender, VP of Sales for the brand. “There was the grand opening of a second distillery and retail space in Pigeon Forge, TN, dubbed ‘The Barn,’ exclusive cocktail offerings at national restaurant chains, joining Dierks Bentley on tour, and becoming the official moonshine of Harley-Davidson.”

Ole Smoky also launched several new flavors, including Blue Flame (128 proof), Butterscotch, Pumpkin Pie, Big Orange, and the nationally-available Charred and Hunch Punch. These joined the brand’s seasonal flavors.

In 2015 Ole Smoky will return as the exclusive moonshine sponsor of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, as well as join Dierks Bentley again on his Sounds of Summer tour.

“We’ve come a long way in just five short years,” Bender says. “We can’t wait to share our ‘shine with the rest of the country, and the world, in the years to come.”

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